The five-star Qualia Resort (Qualia is Latin for ‘a collection of sensory experiences’) is a new world-class luxury spa resort hotel situated in Hamilton Island (one of the Whitsunday Islands) on the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, north-east Australia. The resort is situated on the secluded northernmost point of Hamilton Island. The island has its own airport (4km from the resort) so that guests can be there in less than two hours with direct flights from the international gateway cities on the east coast of Australia.
Guests will arrive at nearby Port Cochere and enter Spa Qualia via a walkway lined with reflecting pools. The new resort, which opened for the first time in September 2007, is privately owned by billionaire wine (Rosemont Wines) producer/exporter and yachting fanatic Bob Oatley, and his family, and is an important designer addition to the premium end of the Australian accommodation market. Qualia has a strict no-child policy and guests must be over 18.
Hamilton Island was effectively bought by Bob Oatley in 2004 when he bought the Hamilton Island management company, which gives control of the island, for AU$198m. The sale included the island’s resorts, yacht club and airport. The company was previously listed on the Australian stock exchange. Technically, the owners of private homes on the island receive 99-year leases or sub-leases to their property.
Oatley is busy building roads and constructing new villas. He has built the Qualia resort and is capitalising on the fact that the island has the region’s only airport, with direct flights from Sydney and most Australian state capitals. The island’s biggest attraction is the annual Hamilton Island Race Week, a major event that brings along with it the annual Whitehaven Beach Party, the Pirate Ship Mardi Gras and a mini invasion of cocktail-drinking mainlanders.
Oatley envisages everything bigger: a new marina and more world-class yacht races. Although there are a lot of plans for development the island will not lose its natural character, as the height of all new buildings will be restricted and 70% of the island is to be retained as bush and rainforest. Currently the architect Chris Beckingham is designing a new house for Oatley on Hamilton Island.
The resort, set in 30 acres of tropical garden landscape, has 60 elegant private one-bedroom hillside pavilions (some incorporating private salt water plunge pool) accessible only to its guests. Attention to detail in the design and construction and the scale and quality of the tropical gardens, pools and public areas is unsurpassed at Qualia.
Each pavilion (constructed of hoop pine) offers exceptional views, some with far-reaching views over the rest of the 74 Whitsunday Islands. The pavilions have been carefully designed by the well-known Australian architect Chris Beckingham from Arlies Beach to blend into the natural environment, giving Qualia an unusual sense of space and harmony.
The interior design features purpose-built hand crafted furniture by the renowned designer, Freedman Rembel. The ‘Leeward’ Pavilions (without pool) have a west-facing sundeck, plenty of space and are meticulously designed. The ‘Windward’ Pavilions include their own plunge-pools and are over four times the size of an average hotel room.
The Beach House is the most prestigious private accommodation at Qualia. This has uninterrupted views over the Coral Sea and offers a spacious boutique bedroom, extensive entertaining area and private full-size swimming pool in the main pavilion. The beach house also has a separate guest pavilion for those travelling with friends.
Qualia facilities include a gym and yoga centre with access to a personal trainer, two infinity pools, a library, private dining room, and two bars and restaurants. Guests also have their own two-seater golf buggy, allowing the rest of the island to be explored at a leisurely pace.
Qualia’s two exclusive restaurants (Long Pavilion restaurant and Pebble Beach) provide a range of international and Australian cuisine. There are also other dining locations around the island that guests can take advantage of.
Spa Qualia offers an extensive range of luxurious treatments. The spa has six rooms with four single treatment rooms and two couple’s rooms complete with sunken Roman baths and outside showers. It is located on the pinnacle of the point, giving it sweeping water views. The two signature treatments include Bularri Yarrul, meaning ‘warm stone’ in the Kamilaroi indigenous language, and Anoint, which uses a range of ten Australian essential oils.
The spa menu uses two international organic skincare ranges: French line Phyts and Hungarian brand Éminence. Activities at the resort include all manner of water sports, diving and snorkelling, reef tours and fishing, and yacht excursions to the white sands of Whitehaven Beach. There is also a putting green and golf driving range.
Hamilton Island itself features a marina complex complete with yacht club. The marina village offers a range of shopping, from general store to local art and fashion. There are ten restaurants, six bars and cafes ranging from traditional Italian to casual alfresco.